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Parents of Santa Cruz Teen Girl Sue for Wrongful Death in Fentanyl Case

For the first time, a San Jose man and his family are being directly accused in the fentanyl-related death of 16-year-old Emma Lace Price of Santa Cruz. Last Friday, Price’s parents filed a civil complaint against Michael J. Russell and his mother and father, Michael B. Russell and Priscilla Russell.

On November 12, 2021, Price was found dead in Michael J. Russell’s Corralitos, Calif. home, which was owned at the time by his parents.

Currently, 23-year-old Russell remains in custody facing criminal prosecution on charges he gave Price Xanax and Percocet, committed sex crimes against her (a minor) and destroyed her cell phone after she overdosed of fentanyl and other substances in her system. He is also facing similar criminal charges including human trafficking related to another victim who was also a minor at the time of the allegations. Russell has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Russell has not been criminally charged by the Santa Cruz County District Attorney’s Office for anything related to Price’s death.

In the civil suit, however, Price’s parents allege “Lace Price sufferance an acute drug overdose as a result of the fentanyl-laced narcotics Mikey Russell provided her.” The suit goes on to accuse Russell’s parents of knowing their son “had a history of preying on young/underage girls” and allowing “sex and drugs” at their home.

The newly filed court documents go on to allege Russell and his mother “did not call 911” immediately after Russell found Price unresponsive on his own bed; and instead they called a friend. Even though Russell and others attempted CPR and put Price’s unresponsive body in a shower, according to a Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s deputy in court, “none of them were qualified to render emergency life-saving aid.”

Russell, his mother and Russell’s friend waited more than 30 minutes before finally calling 911, the documents allege. Price was pronounced dead about an hour and a half after Russell first found her, according to both the complaint and the Sheriff’s incident report obtained by the Investigative Unit obtained through a public records request.

“Lace Price’s parents filed this civil suit in order to get the full story of what happened to their young daughter, to prevent it from happening to another, and to hold responsible parties accountable,” attorney Lesley Harris said in a statement. Harris represents Price’s father, Michael Price. “Lace’s parents want and deserve to know what happened.”

The Investigative Unit has tried contacting the Russell family and Michael Russell’s attorney multiple times since obtaining the court documents on Tuesday but received no response. We spoke with a relative of Russell who said their family is torn up by this case.

Watch the multi-part investigative series on Emma Lace Price’s case and concerns with how law enforcement is responding to our region’s fentanyl crisis:

Part 1: Santa Cruz Family Says Law Enforcement Failed in Daughter’s Death

Part 2: Watsonville Police Accused of Ignoring Fentanyl-Laced Drug Warning Before Santa Cruz Girl’s Death

Part 3: Santa Cruz Sheriff’s Officials Took 4 Days to Treat Teen’s Death as Suspicious, Poss. Sex Crime

Candice Nguyen is an investigative reporter with NBC Bay Area. To contact her about this story or another, email her at candice.nguyen@nbuni.com.


Source: NBC Bay Area

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